It’s an odd feeling, stepping off a plane – that pseudo time machine when you aren’t really anywhere; just a sterile vortex with hours to kill. You can’t quite believe the sun, palm trees and inspiring architecture when you land. The same holds true when you snap back to the familiar.
Rome was my favourite, Split came in second, Dubrovnik third (we were getting tired and did not stay in the city centre) and Venice came in last – it was way too touristy and didn’t feel authentic.
Besides freeing myself from the shackles of the internet and learning about ancient times, I loved living in a postcard and strengthening my new relationship. But there were some things I wish I had done differently…
Lesson #1: Pay Attention to Practicalities
Trekking through Rome’s cobble-stone streets and Dubrovnik’s medieval city walls highlighted the fact that I probably would not have survived in ancient times. Sore feet got in the way of enjoying the sights. So next time, I will forgo fashion and pack some real running shoes. For ladies with small feet, size 35 is a rarity so don’t expect to find nice looking, affordable shoes while you’re there.
And another thing: don’t forgot your camera charger because you will spend your days rationing battery life in order to catch the most important moments.
Lesson #2: Spend more time in each city
After traveling all the way to Europe I gave into the temptation to pack as much in as possible, after giving up Plitvice National Park in Northern Croatia and Postojna Cave in Slovenia (one day!).
We had 2 – 3 days in Rome, Split, Dubrovnik and Venice. It was frustrating to have to constantly learn where to eat and shop and how to get from point A to point B. Just as we grew familiar in a place we had to say goodbye. We also never made it to Murano near Venice, or Trogir/Bol near Split, or Montenegro near Dubrovnik because we didn’t have time to explore the surrounding areas.
Not only that, but I felt the same time pressure I feel in Toronto to go go go. I kind of felt like I needed a vacation post vacation.
Lesson #3: Don’t worry before you really have to
The sky was full of thick, dark clouds the afternoon we were slated to fly from Split to Dubrovnik via Zagreb (Croatia’s northern capital). After hearing from a cab driver that flights sometimes re-route to Split due to bad weather, I started to panic. Maybe I would have to take the 5 hour bus ride I was desperately trying to avoid (I get car and boat sick).
Years ago, a flight to the Bahamas gave new meaning to the word turbulence (I pray I never have to experience that again). But even if the flight was delayed and turbulence was avoided, I would surely miss my connecting flight and get stranded in Zagreb (= vacation ruined). I called Croatian Airlines. I called my dad. I couldn’t eat.
And in the end, everything worked out fine. The panic was for nothing, as it usually is. Sometimes we scare ourselves out of something before we begin. Fear must be managed in order to live well!
Lesson #4: Don’t expect your new partner to morph into your EX
I was actually really scared to take my 9 month old relationship on this epic trip. I worried that once he saw the real me, he would run for the hills. I didn’t want history to repeat itself because I knew I would have to let him go and start over.
Did we fight? Yes, of course. We had one bad fight and other bouts of bickering but all were short lived. We did not go to bed angry. He was calm when I panicked. He made me laugh many times each day, mainly at my own expense (instead of yelling at me). He let me pick off his plate without complaint and ordered Sprite instead of Coke so we could share (soft drinks are so expensive in Europe). He let me rest in the shade, while he searched in the sun. In the end, it felt romantic and we had fun.
So two great people may not be great together. You just have to find compatibility, whereby the other person doesn’t annoy the sh*t out of you. In fact, they find you amusing.
Lesson #5: Overcoming your fear is easier when you do it with someone you love
So back to the topic of fear. I was afraid of taking a Gondola ride due to the potential for motion sickness. While the water was calmest at night, it was too dark to see anything. During the day, the canals were uber congested with taxis & gondola jams (least romantic, most choppy). We decided on dusk because traffic was minimal and it was still light enough to be awed/distracted by the surroundings. After all, who goes to Venice and doesn’t hit up a Gondola? I knew I would regret it.
After nearly drowning as a kid, he was afraid of putting his head under water. After encouragement and tips from me and some hand holding, he did it! Taking one for the team for the sake of the other person pushed both of us outside of our comfort zones. And in the end, it felt kind of good. Click here to read about about my biggest regret (it has to do with family).
I’m already scheming how to use my 3 weeks wisely next year. Probably Greece again due to family, plus its Turkish neighbour (Istanbul and Cappadocia look amazing).
What fear did you conquer this summer? And what’s next on your travel wish list?